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China imposes sanctions on five US officials

In this September 16, 2018, file photo, American flags are displayed together with Chinese flags on top of a trishaw in Beijing. (ANDY WONG / AP)

BEIJING – Five current and former United States officials, including former US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, have been prohibited from entering the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.

The assets of the five current and former United States officials in China will be frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with them, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said

The bans are a result of China's countermeasures against recent US sanctions imposed on Chinese officials in Hong Kong.

The US officials' assets in China will be frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with them, Zhao said. Previous sanctions imposed by China on US officials and entities for the US' "other erroneous activities" concerning Hong Kong remain in effect, he added.

“China strongly rejects and condemns the US act of imposing sanctions on Chinese citizens and interfering in China’s domestic affairs according to its domestic law,” Zhao said at a news briefing in Beijing.

China will continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard its national interests and dignity, he added.

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On Dec 20, the US Department of State announced sanctions on five deputy directors of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, pursuant to its so-called Hong Kong Autonomy Act.

However, the officials were already among seven Chinese officials sanctioned by the US when it issued a so-called Hong Kong Business Advisory in July.

Zhao said that by announcing sanctions against these same individuals again, the US is attempting to contain China by hyping issues related to Hong Kong.

“This completely exposes the US’ intention to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability in the name of caring about Hong Kong’s human rights,” he said.

Li Haidong, a professor of US studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said that the US is bullying other countries with its long-arm sanctions based on its domestic laws.

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“The countermeasures made by China are reminding the US to adhere to the basic norms governing international relations, such as mutual respect and noninterference in other country’s internal affairs,” he said.

Zhao also said the United States should abandon its hypocritical double standards and stop interfering in China's domestic affairs in the name of freedom.

He made the comments in response to statements from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who reportedly called on Chinese authorities to stop targeting Hong Kong's free and independent media.

Zhao said since the implementation of the Law on Safeguarding National Security, Hong Kong has returned to the right path of development, and press freedom there has been better protected in a secure and stable environment with rule of law. "This is a fact that cannot be denied by anyone without bias."

He said that supporting media freedom is just a false pretense used by the United States to serve its true agenda of destabilizing Hong Kong.

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The United States has seen press freedom deteriorating at home, Zhao said, citing reports showing that at least 117 journalists were arrested or detained in 2020 in the United States, a staggering 1,200 percent increase from 2019.

Meanwhile, the lawful actions taken by the Hong Kong police to arrest individuals suspected of conspiring to publish seditious publications and freeze relevant assets are necessary actions of justice to safeguard the rule of law and public order in Hong Kong, Zhao said. It has nothing to do with freedom of the press or speech, he added.

"Hong Kong is a society with rule of law where residents' lawful rights and freedoms, including freedom of the press and speech, are fully protected. That being said, media and speech freedom should not be used to shield criminal acts," he said, adding that media practitioners in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region must strictly comply with Chinese and Hong Kong laws and offenders will bear the legal consequences.

Zhao stressed that no country, organization or individual has the right to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs. Some external forces are distorting the facts in an attempt to confuse the public by wantonly criticizing the justified law-enforcement activities of the Hong Kong SAR under the disguise of media freedom.

With Xinhua inputs